Temple-Wyoming Preview: Al Yankovic Edition

Temple-Wyoming Preview: Al Yankovic Edition

"I said

A-(A)-

L-(L)-

B-(B)-

U-(U)-

…QUERQUE-(QUERQUE)" --riff--

The Temple Owls are set to take over the World Wide Leader Saturday afternoon with games on both ESPN and ESPN 2. You'll find the football team on the flagship at 2 p.m ET.

Temple's matchup with Wyoming is the Owls' second bowl appearance in the last three seasons, but only their third in the last thirty-two. Having lost the 2009 EagleBank Bowl to UCLA, the program has not claimed a postseason victory since 1979.

Fortunately for their hopes of making history, they've drawn a very favorable opponent in the Cowboys.

[breaking down the Gildan New Mexico Bowl after the jump]

The Temple Rushing Attack vs. The Wyoming Defense
As Temple fans were delighted to find out upon learning the identity of their bowl opponent, Wyoming is absolutely dreadful against the run. Of all 120 FBS schools, the Cowboys finished the 2011 season 114th in rush yards allowed, surrendering an average of 230.1 yards per game.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Owls' offense finished seventh in the nation on the ground with an average of 256.7 yards per game. This is the kind of discrepancy you're just aching to find if you're filling out a 35-game bowl pick 'em (believe me, I did one yesterday).

For reference, when Wyoming met Utah State—the sixth best team in the country on the run, and only one spot ahead of Temple in that category—earlier this year, they were burned for a total of 308 rush yards. Pressing the point further, that game was only one of four occasions in which Wyoming yielded more than 300 rush yards this season.

Temple coach Steve Addazio has asserted over and over that his team prides itself on tough defense and an ability to run the football. Should they succeed on both those fronts against Wyoming, it stands to reason that they'll be leaving New Mexico a very happy football team.

Bernard Pierce's Last Game as an Owl?
Temple tailback Bernard Pierce could catapult himself up the draft charts with the a big performance in what could be his last college game.

Pierce has already submitted the perfunctory paperwork to begin the process of potentially leaving school for the professional ranks, though we understand this is a fairly common move for upper classmen and doesn't figure to shed any real light on his future intentions.

Still, its tough to think this won't be the last time Temple fans see Bernard play in an Owl uniform. After a history making junior season in which he claimed the schools all-time records for touchdowns in a game (5), season (25) and career (52), Pierce seems destined for the NFL. Factoring in his injury history and a possible hesitation to come back for his senior year out of fear for depreciating his draft stock, it stands to reason that the next time you see Bernard at Lincoln Financial Field, he'll playing on a Sunday.

The Temple Defense vs. the Wyoming Offense
Switching sides of the ball, the Cowboy attack isn't going to make life easy on the Owls' D. Posting the fourth-best turnover margin and eleventh fewest sacks allowed in the country, Wyoming won't be making many mistakes of its own.

Look for the Temple defense to hopefully benefit from extended rests provided by the offense's success on the ground. In the event Temple is able to control the clock and keep its Wyoming counterparts off the field, then the defense should be fresh to both shut down the Cowboys' offense, and take some runs at Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith.

As a matter of almost completely inconsequential note, Smith's backup is one Colby Kirkegaard. I just want to get one look at that kid for the sole purpose of a making a "Soren's kid" joke a la the Eagles' own Mike Kafka.

Wyoming Somewhat at Home in Albuquerque?
Saturday will be Wyoming's second trip to the New Mexico Bowl in the last three seasons. In their last appearance in 2009, the Cowboys defeated the Fresno State Bulldogs 35-28 in double-overtime.

It never hurts to have a bit of familiarity with a given location, especially considering the struggles for most college programs with any and all forms of travel.

Just Where in the Hell is Temple Anyway?
Good question. I was amused to see Keith Pompey's Friday report in which Wyoming LB Brian Hendricks confessed to not knowing where Temple was. I often wonder when the Owls play a game on national television if individuals in other parts of the country have any idea where the school is actually located. I now know that their cultural cache does not extend to our nation's northwest. Funny story.

(Ir)Relevant History
In the two team's only meeting, Wyoming downed Temple 38-23 in September of 1990. Not sure that outcome has a whole lot of import here.

And Finally
We've been working off and on with musical themes all season. Though the choice of this track off the 1999 Running with Scissors album felt a bit obvious (I always sound like Patrick Bateman when I re-read these sections), I succumbed to the realization that I might never again have the opportunity to pair this particular song with another sporting event.

Whatever tomorrow's outcome, thanks for following along this season. I hope to keep plenty of you around for our ongoing basketball coverage.

"So, whaddaya say, Al (aheheh), shall we press on?"

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.

Pete Mackanin will push to add hitter in meeting with front-office brass Friday

Pete Mackanin will push to add hitter in meeting with front-office brass Friday

ATLANTA — The Phillies entered Tuesday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves — No. 157 of 162 — ranked last in the majors in runs scored (591) and were hanging out near the bottom in a slew of other important offensive categories.
 
The stat sheet says the Phillies need more offense.
 
So does the manager.
 
Pete Mackanin plans to make his case for adding a bat this winter — the best fit would be in the outfield — in an end-of-season meeting with the front office Friday at Citizens Bank Park.
 
“Basically, having talked to the rest of the coaching staff, we’re all pretty much in agreement with what our needs are,” Mackanin said Tuesday afternoon. “I’m anxious to hear from (general manager) Matt Klentak and from (president) Andy MacPhail and if there’s an owner there. We’d like to hear what they have to say. We’re pretty much in agreement on a lot of what we need.
 
“I, for one, think we need at least one hitter that gives you quality at-bats.”
 
There could be hurdles in adding a bat. Money is not one of them. All of the team’s big contracts will be gone when Ryan Howard rides off into the sunset on Sunday. The team that spent over a half-billion in salaries from 2012 to 2014 (and missed the playoffs each time) has plenty of money and has vowed to spend it in due time. But that time might not arrive until team leaders believe the club has built a nucleus that would benefit from the signing of a "finishing" talent or two. The team is committed to building that nucleus from within, and there lies the potential hurdle in adding the difference-making bat that Mackanin craves. Building from within requires eventually giving players from the system an opportunity to prove themselves and grow at the major-league level. The front office, still very much committed to a rebuild, will be cognizant of blocking those players (the list includes Roman Quinn, Nick Williams, Dylan Cozens and others) and their opportunities. Klentak has said as much on several occasions this year.
 
Even Mackanin acknowledged that the situation is a Catch-22.
 
“I know I don’t want to block a prospect that has a chance to be a big part of it,” he said.
 
“But at the same time, I think by having one guy in the middle of the lineup or somewhere in the lineup that can take a little pressure off (Maikel) Franco and (Odubel) Herrera and the rest of them could do wonders. You look at when (Matt) Kemp joined the Braves. They all went off. They’re all hitting. They’ve scored more runs than anybody, I think, since the All-Star break. Last year, with (Yoenis) Cespedes, he joined the Mets and all of a sudden they all started hitting.
 
“I will give those examples. I feel that’s important.”
 
A number of outfield bats will be on the free-agent market this winter. Cespedes could be there if he opts out of his contract with the Mets, but he’s not likely to be interested in joining a rebuilding team and the Phillies are unlikely to want the long-term commitment a player like that would require. Dexter Fowler and Matt Holiday could be free agents if their options for 2017 are not exercised. Ian Desmond will be out there, but the Rangers will probably look to retain him. Jose Bautista, Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss and Colby Rasmus will also be out there. Martin Prado is the type of “professional hitter” that would appeal to Mackanin, but he agreed to a three-year contract extension with the Miami Marlins on Tuesday.